Letter To The Editor: Unintended Consequences –

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how Delray’s approval process promotes large-scale development at the expense of the little guy

This is probably the exact opposite of what most people in Delray desire. But it is exactly what the byzantine approval process we have promotes.

Why do I say this?  For commercial projects it takes more than a year from application to approval. Including final plat and building permit the process approaches two years. And this is true for conforming projects that seek no variances.

This is simply too long. To wait five months to get on a SPRAB agenda is terrible. And five months for a building permit is just too long. If minor changes are required, add another four – six months to the process.

So who has the time, money and resources to deal with this? Not small or medium size property owners.

The process has become so complicated it is virtually impossible to get thru it without professional representation. Familiarity with staff and the various boards is critical, and only those with intimate knowledge of how the city works will ultimately be successful.

So extended delays and the additional dollars required means fewer people can participate. This problem doesn’t just affect professional developers; it also includes the small business owner who wants to expand and the not for profit such as the Community Land Trust who wants to build more affordable homes.

The end result is more people are forced to sell to the bigger guys who have the human and financial resources to put it all together. And since they can only work on so many deals, they focus on the biggest ones, which involves land assemblages and translates into larger projects.

Which brings us back to the original problem. The barriers for entry we have erected are too high.  The approval process promotes large-scale development at the expense of the little guy.

We need rules that make sense, and a process that is easier to understand and navigate.  No one I know wants to overrun Delray, or destroy makes us special. But what we do need is an approval process that affords everyone the fair opportunity to participate.

-Rick Caster